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Fall 1999

When Memory Comes
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His excitement about living in Israel at that time, being at ground zero for the birth of a nation, remains palpable today. "It was an incredible experience," he says, his face lighting up as his arms spread open. "I remember it with a glow. Israel had something heroic about it."

He still calls Israel home, and in fact divides his time between Westwood and Tel Aviv, where he is a professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University.

Agricultural college soon wore thin, however, and Friedlander turned his attention to more intellectually rigorous pursuits. After a stint in the Israeli army, he returned to school full time, attending the School of Law and Economics in Tel Aviv. Thinking he would become a diplomat, he earned a master's degree in political science from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris. From 1956-'61, he served as secretary to the president of the World Zionist Organization and as head of the scientific department of Israel's Ministry of Defense under future prime minister Shimon Peres, who was then vice minister of defense in the government of David Ben-Gurion. In the 1980s, Friedlander was active in the Middle East peace moment, Peace Now.

But even while studying political science, Friedlander says he was drawn to the historical, rather than the political, dimension of that field. "From there, it was a natural progression to historical studies."

After earning a Ph.D. in 1963 from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, Friedlander decided he wanted to be a teacher. But always hovering just beyond the periphery was the specter of the Holocaust a life-defining event that, he says, shaped not just the destinies of those who went through it, but also the destinies of their children.

"It is like a block of stone that you can't remove from your life," he says. How does one get beyond, if not over, such a horrific experience?

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